Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #2

TITLE: The Gray Falcon
GENRE: YA fantasy

As midmorning crept over the city of Storm’s Quarry, Nadya stood in a ration line and ignored the scowls tossed out by humans who shoved passed her. They clutched their parcels of food to their chests and hurried away. Her hands tightened into fists, but she stubbornly stared at the sky. Thick gray clouds clogged the horizon, imprisoning the sun behind their bulk. Without its rays to dispel the damp, the floodwaters would not recede as Kesali had predicted.

“Next,” the guardsman called out, interrupting any painful thoughts of Kesali and her betrothal. Nadya hadn’t seen her since it was announced to the city three months ago, and the Stormspeaker’s absence was gnawing hole in her chest.

Nadya stepped forward. “Family of three.” She held out a clay token imprinted with the number.

The guardsman glared at her, ignoring the ration token. His crimson uniform marked him as one of the Duke’s Guard, and his pale skin and light hair marked him as human. “There is ration line in the rat tier,” he said in the clipped accent of the city.

“Which ran out of food nearly a week ago. I had to come here.” Nadya sucked in a deep breath of damp air and unwashed flesh. Her people were not welcome outside of the bottom tier of Storm’s Quarry, nicknamed by humans as the rat tier because only rats would deign to live among the Domari.

“These rations are reserved for this tier.” For humans went unspoken.


  1. You brought us into this world quick with very little. Good job on that. I'm not sure what was announced to the city three months ago. Nor do I know what a storm speaker is but that can wait. I like the setup so far and would keep reading.

  2. The situation you've set up is interesting enough to pull me in, so the story line, at this point, works for me, and I like the fact that you immediately let us know she isn't human. The problems, for me, lie in the execution.

    Parg 1 - you could cut all those opening prepositional phrases and start with Nadya. 'Passed' should be 'past.' Perhaps show us someone with an armload of parcels shoving past her and scowling. 'Clogged the horizon' doesn't work. Try something other than clogged.

    Parg 2 - While the guard's voice can interrupt her thoughts, he can't interrupt her thoughts about Kesali's betrothed, because she hasn't had any thoughts about Kesali's betrothed. And what follows is backstory. You might cut that whole parg. except for the guard saying 'Next.'

    Parg 3 - 'imprinted with the number.' What number? Is that number important? If it's the number 3, because it's a family of three, just add a 3 after number. If it's a different number, tell us what it is and what it means.

    Parg 4 - you might cut all the description and just keep the dialogue. The guard, it seems, will be inconsequential. If he's just here in this scene and will never be seen again, nothing you tell us about him matters. The info about his skin and hair and uniform can be gotten in later at a point where those things matter.

    Parg 5 - the same as parg 4. Cut the explanation. The dialogue, and the way people treat her, make the info in the explanation evident without you telling us.

    Overall, just show us what's happening at the moment and save all the explanations for the moments when those things matter.

  3. I think there's a good world set-up here, although the narration feels distant. I think for an opening page, it might work to add in a closer POV with Nadya, to get her reaction and thoughts to what's happening a little more clearly than looking in from above. For example, the first line sets a tone, although all we get about Nadya is she is standing in line. Perhaps you could convey how this line affects her by altering some of the details; she's ignoring scowls, but maybe you could show this as something more active, what is SHE doing and how is she reacting. The next line again talks about other people, but maybe the focus could go back to Nadya, inching forward in line, her stomach growling, she's shifting her weight to ease discomfort from standing for hours, etc.

    I think a little more focus on Nadya early on will make those other setting and world building details flow more easily. Good luck!

  4. I really like the name "Storm's Quarry." I get kind of a "Hunger Games" vibe from the food rationing and hints of an oppressive government, and that might be the only thing that would hold me back from wanting to read on. I am curious about the Domari, why they are seen as beneath the humans. I was slightly confused a little by the mention of Kesali. What is a Stormspeaker and what does her betrothal mean in the grand scheme of things? Is she human or Domari? Over all, nice job quickly and efficiently dropping the reader in a fantasy world.

  5. I agree with a lot of the comments above. I think you do a good job setting up Nadya and her family's plight - the lack of food, the contempt of the humans - and I have a real sense of the scene and the world here.

    I don't read much fantasy, so bear with me, but Nadya seems pretty human to me, so I'd like to see some little thing about her that shows she isn't human. Even if it's just what "her people" are called. Or, are they, in fact, human, but have been de-humanized by the bigotry of the upper tiers? If so, I'd like to know that.

    "shoved passed her" - should be past

    "interrupting any painful thoughts" - whose painful thoughts? Nadya's? If so, just say "Nadya's painful thoughts" - but I'd rather know what the painful thoughts are.

    Is Kesali the Stormspeaker? If so, and it's important, you need to make that plain when you first mention Kesali. Otherwise it sounds like you're introducing another character and it's confusing.

    I like the title and the name "Storm's Quarry" - sounds like a fun place (not)! But certainly a good setting for a story.

  6. Fantasy is not normally a genre I'd pick up to read, but your writing is strong and you did a great bit of world building in the opening paragraph to suck me into the story. The back story others have mentioned doesn't bother me so much because you've kept it short, but if it bothers enough people, it might be something you want to look at. With that said, it seems to me, at this point anyhow, that you could eliminate the second paragraph and still have a very interesting and strong opening.
    I would continue to read on.

  7. Good start. I think there's a word missing: "was (a) gnawing"

  8. Strong setup—I immediately know how hard it is to live in Storm’s Quarry. There were a few awkward, passive phrases that took me out of the text, namely the “scowls tossed out by humans” and how Nadya’s “hands tightened into fists.” While we know Nadya is a tough kid and we’re already rooting for her, the third person POV puts her at a distance from your reader. Shifting into first person might be the best and most efficient way to bring us into her world and show us what she is going through.

    The mentions of Kesali here were also a bit distracting. I would shine the spotlight on Nadya first, then bring in the supporting cast, introduce the concept of a Stormspeaker, etc.

  9. The passive parts could be removed to help draw the reader into the story.

    I like your descriptions and I can tell Nadya is a strong character.